Many of NSW’s poorest residents will soon be able to access free at-home COVID-19 rapid test kits, as the state’s testing sites and pathology labs remain strained.
But the government continues to face calls to provide the tests for free to all.
After a national cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a limited number of rapid antigen tests would be provided free to six million concession card holders across Australia, with each person able to get 10 over the next three months.
However, the changes will not help NSW keep track of its escalating infections for a while, with the scheme not expected to be up and running for a fortnight. Rapid tests will remain in short supply and testing sites overwhelmed in the meantime.
NSW reported another record number of new cases, with 35,054 infections diagnosed from 108,844 tests on Wednesday, and Premier Dominic Perrottet warned the state was in for a challenging few weeks.
He said the government is doing everything it can to drive down testing delays while waiting for some of the 50 million rapid antigen tests it has ordered to arrive.
He also flagged the potential for more people in NSW to be offered the tests for free.
“There is no dollar figure that we will not put on the table to ensure … rapid antigen tests are available to anybody right across the state who needs one,” Mr Perrottet said.
But NSW Labor leader Chris Minns, who has been lobbying for the rapid tests to be made free for two weeks, on Wednesday night said the premier hasn’t done enough.
Mr Perrottet has frustratingly missed the opportunity to prevent the state’s “testing disaster” and provide the rapid tests when they are most needed, the opposition leader said.
“(It’s a) missed opportunity to help protect all the important work we did together to slow the spread,” Mr Minns tweeted.